"Secondary drowning" the risk of drowning hours after being out of water

POSTED: Thursday, June 5, 2014 - 3:19pm
UPDATED: Thursday, June 5, 2014 - 9:06pm

It's a fear every parent has when with their child is near water, the fear of drowning. When suffering a near drowning experience a parent may think the child is ok but hours after being out of the water, the threat of drowning is not over.

"There's a delayed reaction that can happen after that small struggle in the water." - Dr. Dominic Lucia, Medical Director of McLane's Children Scott & White Emergency Department, in Temple.

It's called "secondary drowning." or dry drowning. It happens when a child has a struggle water and inhales the water instead of swallowing it.

"The lungs tissue starts to become inflamed, there becomes edema or added fluid in the lungs. The child becomes hypoxic and it's hard to breathe."

Doctors say to look for signs of altered mentation or consistent coughing. If a child is experiencing the effects of secondary drowning, have them checked out immediately.

Sometimes parents can mistake secondary drowning symptoms for general fatigue. That error can be costly leading to life threatening injuries or sometimes, even death.

"If you're suspicious of it because of the change in behavior or because of the fatigue, at that point you need to take your child to the closest emergency department for them to be checked out."

A child should be monitored when near the water at all times because its only takes seconds of distraction for a drowning to occur.

"If you are there to monitor a child that should be your sole job."

Physicians tell parents to look for signs up to to 24 hours after a near drowning experience, to use careful judgment and to trust their gut .


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